E-commerce in the time of a pandemic

E-commerce is one of the few industries that is developing quite rapidly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The forced isolation of society and the restrictions introduced have driven demand for online shopping, which has often been the only way to meet basic needs.

 

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What products are e-consumers looking for during the pandemic in online shops?

The report "E-commerce in times of crisis" prepared by the Chamber of Electronic Economy and Mobile Institute shows that 14% of e-consumers declared their willingness to buy food and cleaning products only via the Internet, and 24% partly via the Internet and stationary.  The data of Stackline company also shows that among the categories of products which have enjoyed the greatest interest in recent times, the most popular include:

  • disposable gloves (+670%), 
  • bread-making machines (+652%), 
  • medicines for the common cold (+535%),
  • soups (+397%), 
  • groats and rice (+386%), 
  • ready-made packaged food (+377%), 
  • cups with fresh fruit (+326%), 
  • exercise equipment (+307%), 
  • dairy products (+279%),
  • dishwashing liquids (+275%).

However, the demand for the following products has decreased:

  • luggage and suitcases (-77%), 
  • briefcases, folders (-77%), 
  • photographic equipment (-66%), 
  • wedding dresses (-63%),
  • suits (-62%). 

These trends should not surprise anyone. The pandemic has forced consumers to adapt to new realities and to try to satisfy these most important needs first and foremost. Hence the increase in demand for foodstuffs and personal protective equipment, and the decline in the sectors which have been subject to the most significant restrictions.

Has the e-commerce industry felt the market volatility caused by the pandemic?

The e-commerce sector is fighting victoriously in this pandemic and the benefits it offers attract both new entrepreneurs and those interested in a new form of shopping. The Shopper's report entitled "Trade vs coronavirus – how sales moved to the Internet" shows that in the first quarter of 2020, 5% to 23% more shops (depending on the category) took their first steps on the Internet. Most new e-commerce businesses are related to the food industry (18%) and books and multimedia (23%). Among the new online shops, many belong to entrepreneurs who until now had only stationary shops. The pandemic announced by the WHO has cut them entirely off from selling their products and services, which has led them to expand their sales channels by the Internet.

Social media also came to help at this difficult time. Information on the problems of entrepreneurs and goods on the shelves, especially those of short duration, is readily shared to others, which has meant that some of the companies have suffered less loss than could have been expected. Support has also been offered by many shop platforms, introducing promotions or extended test periods, and by agencies helping entrepreneurs to get online with business. 

How to fight for the customer in e-commerce in the age of the pandemic?

The current market situation, although seemingly optimistic, also means increased competition. Therefore, e-shops had to respond to the growing demand not only by providing more efficient handling of more orders but also by introducing promotions, extending return periods or reducing delivery costs. The fight for the customer therefore took on a variety of forms. Who will be the winner? 

The answer to this question is neither simple nor unambiguous. Today, in e-commerce, what matters is:

  • individual approach to the customer,
  • personalised offers tailored to the needs and preferences of customers,
  • a UX-friendly shop that guides customers almost like "by the hand" through product categories,
  • a competitive pricing policy, 
  • transparent and consistent communication in all channels,
  • efficient handling of orders and complaint processes.

Every e-shop owner who wants to survive the pandemic and wishes to develop their business in this challenging time should verify their strategy and adjust their objectives to market realities. What is crucial here is to adapt the offer to the current needs and capabilities of customers, including those in quarantine or isolation, to react quickly to the restrictions introduced and to monitor actions taken. 

Basing decisions on data, it is easier to make rational decisions which will have a positive impact on the profitability of the entire project. Fortunately, we can count on advanced data analysis systems, such as Ecometrixo, which aggregate all key data in a central location. Thus, in one dashboard, we can not only track current sales but also analyse the purchase paths of customers or the effectiveness of conducted advertising campaigns. All this, in turn, influences the sales and profits of our e-business.